In fact SoaP will go down in history as the first film to be partially re-shot according to input from fans BEFORE they had even seen it. Though principal photography wrapped in September 2005, New Line commissioned five days of additional shooting in early March 2006. The new footage was tailored to include dialogue used in fan parodies including the line: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" It was also intended to raise the age restriction on the film, which had been toned down for a PG-13 audience.
These changes came on the back of an aborted attempt to change the film's title to Pacific Air Flight 121. When the movie's fans and its star heard about the plans, they reacted with genial outrage. At the time Samuel L. Jackson told an interviewer, "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title." In another interview he quipped, "What are you doing here? It's not Gone with the Wind. It's not On the Waterfront. It's Snakes on a Plane!" The title was duly changed back, much to the delight of everyone involved.
As for the plot of the film, it is simplicity itself: Jackson is an FBI agent who is escorting a witness on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles when a crime lord engineers the release of hundreds of deadly snakes on the airplane in order to eliminate the witness before he can testify against him. Now everyone on board must band together to survive the deadly onslaught etc. etc.
Most mainstream critics have been less than kind to the film (which opened in America on Thursday the 17th of August), calling it bland, forgettable and ordinary, but the viewing public don't seem to care. They have already flocked to the film in their thousands, racking up an estimated $1.4 million on the first day alone. Theatre owners are said to be amazed by the rowdiness of audience participation at most of the shows, with people whooping, heckling and even bringing giant inflatable snakes into the screenings.
So why all the fuss about a silly B-grade film? The most convincing argument is that audiences are sick of irony and spin, and the film's dumb-but-honest premise comes as a breath of fresh air. Whatever the reason, you can bet I'll be jumping on board the very first chance I get. After all, how many times do you get to see Samuel L Jackson have this much fun in a movie?
- Alistair Fairweather
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